After over 10 years living in Australia, we came back to live in the UK in 2018.
I never really got to grips with gardening in Australia. I tried – I worked quite hard on a couple of gardens we had – but somehow it never felt like gardening as I knew it.
When we first came back we were renting a property, so I had no garden of my own.
Finally, in summer 2019, we got our own place, but it is only this year – 2020 – that I am going to have a chance to develop the garden.
Starting the new garden – the current state
In its current state, the garden is pretty uninspiring.
It’s not very big and is a kind of irregular rectangular shape – fairly wide but not very deep.
We are surrounded by houses on all sides and, although they are single story houses and not really overlooking us, there are very few tall boundary plants, so there is a sense of being hemmed in.
There is also very little in the way of existing planting to work with – apart from some uninsipiring shrubs that had been kept closely clipped – and only some narrow beds along the boundaries. I did do a little bit of work in the garden last summer, planting some bamboo to screen one quite open boundary. But it was later in the year and there hasn’t been much growth yet.
A further limitation is that I want to create this garden fairly economically. The other consequence of having a family is that there is less money to spend on my indulgences, so I am going to have to try to keep a lid on the budget (there is one example of budget planting here).
However, notwithstanding all that negativity, I am extremely excited at the prospect starting a new garden here.
It’s quite special for us as a family. We were rootless for a while and it has been a huge (an ongoing) transition for my wife and children to settle into a new country. But we are making a home here and making a new garden is a big part of that.
A new garden in Scotland
You might like to know that ‘here’ is in East Lothian in Scotland, by the sea. So, as somebody who spent the most of his life in London, it is a big contrast for me to live on the coast – a very beautiful coast at that – surrounded by fields.
And this location will probably have an impact on the gardening. For a a start the soil seems good. According to the soil map of Scotland it is a “brown earth”, type soil, which is apparently a well-drained fertile soil with a pH of between 5.0 and 6.5. It certainly seems loamy and relatively easily worked, although this particular garden is not very well drained, as water often pools in places after heavy rain.
The other key aspect relevant to location is proximity to the sea. Now, I did not think this would be much of an issue as we are a good 10 minutes walk from the beach. However, when a man came to fix our windows recently, he told us that the catches often get jammed because of the salt in the air. So it will be interesting to see whether this does have any impact on plants in the garden.
On the upside, proximity to the sea means there is a little bit of a micro-climate, so we may not such hard frosts and low temperatures as the areas more inland.
Right now it is February, and a few daffodil bulbs are showing signs of life. In between heavy rain and gale force winds, I’ve been trying to shape the lines of some extended garden beds. In the spirit of economising, I’ve also been gathering some discount plants (including some dahlias) and sewing some seeds.
The story continues:
- Removing turf for new garden beds
- Budget gardening
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition. He is a member of the National dahlia Society.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.